Saturday, September 11, 2010
Nine Years Later
I was making breakfast this morning when I heard a plane fly overhead and I felt a chill go up my spine.
That happened a lot in the weeks after 9/11, when every jet coming in for a landing sounded like a missile attack.
Of course it was crazy; the plane traveling over my house this morning was flying too high and moving too slowly. It wasn’t like on 9/11, when the jets streaked through the sky and exploded right in front of me.
For weeks after that I would look up whenever I heard a jet, half-wondering if it was going to happen again.
The feeling gradually faded, but I guess that since this is the ninth anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center, I shouldn’t be too surprised that I get a little jumpy.
Today is also my late father’s birthday; he turned 80 on that terrible day and all I had planned to do that morning was to go home after work and celebrate with him and my sister.
Of course we all had no idea that just getting home that day would be such a struggle, that our city would be turned into a war zone, and that so many people would never see their homes or their families ever again.
I went to Trinity Church on Friday to mark this day. Rev. Mark talked to us about loving our enemies and loving the bad parts of ourselves. Jesus said that it’s easy to love your own people, Rev. Mark told us. Loving your enemies is much more difficult.
That evening I went to the Open Center for a seminar on anger, which seemed appropriate at this time of the year. Believe or not, I can be a hostile fellow sometimes, so I thought this seminar would be helpful.
While waiting for the class to start, I walked around the Open Center's book store and picked up a copy of The Wind is My Mother, a book by Bear Heart, a Native American shaman. I flipped it open and the first line I was saw stated "God is forgiveness."
Ezra Bayda and Elizabeth Hamilton, the husband and wife team running the seminar, discussed the idea of speaking up for yourself without getting angry.
"It's not about being a wimp at all," Elizabeth said.
Now it's nine years after 9/11 and what have we learned? Well, from where I’m sitting, not a whole hell of a lot.
If you've been following some of these controversies surrounding 9/11—the Koran burner, the Ground Zero mosque that isn’t a mosque and isn’t near Ground Zero—you might be a little disgusted to see how this awful event is being twisted over and over for political gain.
I keep hearing this line about never forgetting 9/11. Spare me. September 11 became a political football that day the towers came crashing down and nothing has changed. I can’t believe how the victims’ memories are being so wantonly disrespected.
I know I shouldn’t be so cynical, so angry, because that just adds to the misery. But sometimes it’s not that easy.
I look back on that day when total strangers were helping each other, when people prayed together, cried together, all of us wondering what the hell had happened and what would happen next.
We were all together back then and the rest of the world loved us. Now people want to burn Korans and force a planned community center to move away from the so-called hallow ground, which is already home to a strip club and God knows many saloons.
Every year on this day I send an email to Eva, a woman I met on 9/11 in a senior center where we had taken refuge after the first tower came down and the air was thick with blinding, vile smoke.
I walked over the Manhattan Bridge with Eva when the air finally cleared and showed her where the LIRR station was at Atlantic Avenue.
Eva wrote back to say that she would be returning home from California today and that she was a little nervous to be flying on September 11. I told her she would be fine, but I understand how she feels.
We’re both amazed that nine years have flown by so quickly. And we’re both appalled at these bogus controversies that have sprung up from 9/11. Back then we knew what was important; we didn't care about politics. We just wanted to survive.
I wish these individuals who are so intent on pushing their agendas had been with Eva and me on 9/11, walking over that bridge with thousands of other stranded people, watching the smoke rise from the rubble behind us, and listening to fighter jets fly over our city.
Maybe they’d have a little respect for the people who didn’t make it home that day. Maybe they would show some compassion for the victims’ families and reserve this day for mourning the dead and put aside their causes, issues, and complaints.
Maybe, but then again maybe they just want to keep spewing blinding, vile smoke of their own.
How about we put the victims and their families first today? Let's pray for the ones we lost and hope that something like this never happens again. And let’s try and love our enemies and the bad parts of ourselves.